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New Approaches and Future Challenges

The most recent Davis innovation that may soon see use in other cities is the bicycle signal head. Modeled after similar devices used in Europe, the bike signal head has been approved by the California Traffic Control Devices Committee for certain specific uses, generally where large volumes of bicycle traffic are encountered.

In Davis, most of the devices are used to control bike traffic at mid-block bike path crossings of roadways. At one intersection, however, a significant interface between the campus and city with over one thousand bike crossings per hour at peak times, the special lights have been employed to provide cyclists with their own separate phase during which only they may cross a busy arterial.

Bicycle collision rates at the site have been dramatically reduced since the signals' installation, and the device shows promise for similar situations where bike traffic volumes warrant their use. It should be noted that this particular Davis intersection is further complicated by two-way bike paths on both sides of the arterial, with one of the paths terminating on the west side of the bike crossing while the path opposite continues east and west.

It has been argued that the need for special signals would be obviated if the paths were removed and the arterial widened or otherwise improved to handle the bike traffic volumes. While the argument may have some merit, it is also moot given fiscal and political realities in Davis.

However, this facility exemplifies the problems that can arise when attempting to rectify planning and design decisions based on limited experience and knowledge, not to mention the difficulty in forecasting traffic volumes decades in the future.

As Davis enters the twenty-first century, the bicycle mode choice faces many threats to its traditional popularity. The city and campus continue to grow and attract a more diverse population with different origins, lifestyles, careers and workplaces. These "newcomers" don't necessarily share the same vision as long time residents, and their varied backgrounds can make inculcating them into the once pervasive Davis bicycle milieu a real challenge.

Recognizing this challenge, both the city and the University are taking steps to preserve, protect and promote bicycling and its benefits to the community. In recent years, these steps have included the hiring of a full-time city bicycle/pedestrian coordinator, the establishment of city and campus bicycle advisory committees, and an earnest effort to take advantage of local, state and federal monies to fund a wide range of facilities development and programmatic improvements.

With more and more communities becoming aware of the many advantages which accrue to the promotion of alternative transportation modes, Davis can continue to serve as a shining example of what can be achieved when hard-working residents and community officials agree on a common vision of what makes a place truly livable.

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The League of American Bicyclists, 1612 K Street NW, Suite 800 Washington, DC 20006-2802
phone - 202-822-1333 fax - 202-822-1334 email -

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